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Battle of Cape Sicie

Page history last edited by tsolano@isf.com 10 years, 4 months ago

The Battle of Cape Sicie / Toulon

22nd February 1744 (10th February 1744 os)


The British Fleet of Admiral Thomas Mathews


The Van Squadron of Rear Admiral of the Red William Rowley


Ship's NameGunsCommanderNotes


Stirling Castle 70 Thomas Cooper  
Warwick 60 Temple West  
Nassau 70 James Lloyd  
Barfleur 90 Merrick de L'Angle flagship


Princess Caroline 80 Henry Osborn  
Berwick 70 Edward Hawke  
Chichester 80 William Dilkes  
Boyne 80 Rowland Frogmore  
Kingston 60 John Lovet  
The Van Squadron - Ships not in the Line


Ship's NameGunsCommanderNotes


Oxford 50 Lord Harry Powlett  
Faversham 44 John Watkins  
Winchelsea 20 William Marsh  
The Center Squadron of Admiral Thomas Mathews


Ship's NameGunsCommanderNotes


Dragon 60 Charles Watson  
Bedford 70 George Townshend  
Somerset 80 George Selater  
Princess 70 Robert Pett  
Norfolk 80 John Forbes  
Namur 90 John Russel flagship


Marlborough 90 James Cornwall  
Dorsetshire 80 George Burrish  
Essex 70 Richard Norris  
Rupert 60 John Amlrgee???  
Royal Oak 70 Edmund Williams  
The Center Squadron - Ships not in the Line


Ship's NameGunsCommanderNotes


Guernsey 50 Samuel Cornish  
Salisbury 50 Peter Osborn  
Dursley Galley 20 Gilles Richard Vanbrugh  
Ann Galley 8 Mackie Fireship expended


Sutherland   Alexander Lord Colville Hospital Ship


The Rear Squadron of Vice-Admiral Richard Lestock


Ship's NameGunsCommanderNotes


Dunkirk 60 Charles Wagen Purvis  
Cambridge 80 Charles Drummond  
Torbay 80 John Gascoigne  
Neptune 90 George Stepney Flagship


Russell 80 Robert Lang  
Buckingham 70 John Towry  
Elizabeth 70 Joseph Lingen  
Revenge 70 George Berkley  
The Rear Squadron - Ships not in the Line


Ship's NameGunsCommanderNotes


Nonsuch 50 Edmund Strange  
Romney 50 Henry Godsalve  
Diamond 40 James Hodsell  
Mercury 8 M Peadle Fireship


The French Fleet of Chef d'Escadron Gabaret


The Van Squadron of Chef d'Escadron Gabaret


Ship's NameGunsCommanderNotes


Boree 64 de Damaquart  
Toulouse 60  


Duc d'Orleans 68 d'Orves  
Espoir 74 Gabaret Flagship ?Esperance? clowes


Trident 64 d Caylus  
Alcion 56 de Vaudreuil  
Aquilon 48  


Eole 64 d Albert  
The Van Squadron - Ships not in the Line


Ship's NameGunsCommanderNotes


Atalante 20  


  8   Fireship


The Center Squadron of Admiral De Court


Ship's NameGunsCommanderNotes


Furieuz 60 de Gravier  
Serieux 64  


Firme 70 de Desorquart  
Tigre 50 de Saurins-Murat  
Terrible 74   flagship


Saint Esprit 68  


Diamant 50 de Marrilart  
Sólide 64 de Chateauneuf  
The Center Squadron - Ships not in the Line


Ship's NameGunsCommanderNotes


Fleur 20  


Zephyr 20  


8   Fireship


8   Fireship


The Rear Squadron of Don Jose Navarro


Ship's NameGunsCommanderNotes


Oriente 60 Don M de Vilena  
America 60 Don A Petruche  
Neptuno 60 Don H Olivares  
Poder 60 Don R Errutiu  
Constante 70 Don A Eturaigo  
Real Felipe 114 Don N Geraldine flagship


Hercules 64 Don C Alvario  
Halcon 60 Don J Rentorin (Alcion?)


Brillante 60 Don B de la Barrida  
San Fernando 64 Conde de Vega Florida  
Soberbio 60 Don J B Castro  
Santa Isabel 80 Don L Dutabil  
The Rear Squadron - Ships not in the Line


Ship's NameGunsCommanderNotes


Volage 20  


  8   Fireship






Description of the action taken from Clowes the Royal Navy Vol III

After having, at 11.30 A.M., hoisted the signal to engage, Mathews stood on, but overhauled the enemy only very gradually. At 1 P.M., the Namur was abreast of the Real Felipe, and the Barfleur, of the Terrible. Half-an-hour later, the Namur bore down within pistol-shot of the Real Felipe, and began to engage her furiously, and the Barfleur presently did the same with the Terrible. Lestock's division was still far astern, and to windward, and, according to the evidence at the court-martial, could not have then been up with the centre, unless Mathews had shortened sail and waited for it.


The Namur was well supported by the Marlborough, which attacked the Isabela, and by the Norfolk, which attacked the Constitute. The Princess, Bedford, Dragon, and Kingston fired into the Poder, and the Neptuno, America, and Orient, after exchanging rather distant broadsides with the same British ships, passed on with the rear of the French part of the allied fleet. The remaining Spanish ships were, at first, considerably astern of their station, but, as the breeze freshened, they came up, and, towards the mid of the action, assisted the Real Felipe. Lestock made some effort to prevent this, but the wind was still very light with him, and he was also impeded by the swell, so that, although he had all sail set, his efforts were vain.


The Barfleur got to close quarters with the Terrible, and was much assisted by the Princess Caroline and the Berwick. The Chichester and Boyne also threw in their fire, but they were not close enough to the enemy to do much execution. As for the leading ships of the van the Stirling Castle, Warwick and Nassau they did not bear down to the enemy at all, although the signal for them to do so was flying. They chose to disregard it, and to keep their wind, in order, as was afterwards explained or suggested, to prevent the French from doubling upon the head of the British column.


The hottest part of the action was, in the meantime, being waged by the ships immediately about Mathews. The Norfolk drove the Constante out of the line, a shattered wreck, but was herself too much damaged to pursue her. The Namur and Marlborough were, at one moment, so close to one another that Mathews, to avoid being fallen on board of by his eager second, was obliged to fill his sails, and draw a little ahead. The Namur was then scarcely under control, owing to the rough handling which she had received , and could give little help to the Marlborough, which, fought by her captain, and afterwards by his nephew, Lieutenant Frederick Cornwall, in the most magnificent manner, was very sorely pressed. None of the vessels immediately astern of her volunteered to assist her in the least, but, keeping their wind, fired fruitlessly at an enemy who was beyond the reach of their shot; and, in spite of the fact that the Spaniards betrayed every desire to meet them in the most handsome manner, few British captains properly took up the challenge. The most brilliant exception was Captain Edward Hawke, of the Berwick, who, noticing how the Poder had vainly endeavoured to draw on some of his reluctant colleagues, quitted his station, and bore down upon her. His first broadside did her an immense amount of damage, and, in twenty minutes, when she had lost all her masts, she was glad to strike.


The Real Felipe was disabled, but the Spanish ships of the rear were crowding up to her assistance, and Lestock remained afar off, so that it looked as if the British strength about the Spanish admiral would not suffice to compel her to haul down her colours. In these circumstances, Mathews ordered the Ann Galley, fireship, to go down and burn the Real Felipe, and, seeing that the Marlborough was in no condition to help herself, he further signalled for the boats of the British centre to tow her out of the line.


The Ann Galley was handled with great ability and gallantry. As she bore down on the Real Felipe she was received with a well-directed fire from such guns as that crippled ship could bring to bear, and with a more distant cannonade from the Spanish vessels astern of the flagship. Commander Mackie, match in hand, stood alone upon the deck of his little craft, ready to fire her at the proper moment. Most of his crew were alongside in a boat, which was waiting to take him on board. The rest, by his orders, had taken shelter from the storm of shot that hurtled across the fireship. But the Anine Galley, struck repeatedly between wind and water, was already sinking. Moreover, a Spanish launch, crowded with men, was approaching to board her, and tow her clear. Mackie felt that, at all hazards, he must endeavour to destroy the launch, and, in spite of the fact that his decks were littered with loose powder, that his hatches and scuttles were open, and that his funnels were uncapped, he fired his waist guns at the boat. This was fatal. The blast from the guns set fire to the loose powder; and, while the Ann Galley was still too far from the Real Felipe to seriously damage her, she prematurely blew up, and then sank, carrying down Commander Mackie, a lieutenant, a mate, a gunner, and two quartermasters.


In the meantime, M. de Court, who, owing to the confusion and smoke, seems to have supposed that the Spaniards were much more closely pressed than was actually the case, tacked to their assistance. Rear-Admiral Rowley tacked too, and followed the allied centre. Very soon afterwards, Mathews, to quote the words of Beatson


" hauled down the signal to engage the enemy, and also the signal for the line of battle; making the signal to give over chase; but, at half-past five o'clock, he made the signal for the fleet to draw into a line of battle ahead. There was then but little wind, and so great a swell that the ships could only wear. The Admiral wore, and formed the line of battle on the larboard tack. This last manoeuvre of the Admiral's appears to have been made with a design to collect his fleet, draw them out of the confusion they were in, and arrange them in a proper order for battle, which he had every reason to think woidd be speedily renewed; the French squadron being now at hand, and in an extremely well-formed line. They crowded, however, to the assistance of the Spaniards. The Poder, prize, being dismasted, and being unable to follow the British fleet when they wore, was retaken by the French squadron, she having on board a lieutenant and twenty-three men belonging to the Berwick. The Dorsetshire, Essex, Rupert, and Royal Oak, wearing at the time the Admiral did, brought them nearer to the sternmost ships of the Spanish squadron, which had by this time joined their admiral in a close line. In passing each other, being on contrary tacks, a short action took place, in which the Namur, Dunkirk, and Cambridge joined, but with little execution on either side. Daylight was almost gone, and the British fleet passed on, leaving the confederate fleet astern."'


Owing to the condition of the Namur's masts, Mathews, at about 8 P.M., shifted his flag from her to the Russell, and intimated the fact of the change to Lestock and Rowley. On the morning of the 12th, when the wind was E.N.E., the enemy was seen about twelve miles to the S.W. At about 7 A.M., the Somerset, which had become separated from her consorts in the night, fell in with, and for half-an-hour engaged, the Hercules, which had likewise straggled from her friends; but, the Hercules being assisted by some French ships, the Somerset had to draw off and rejoin her division. At 9 A.M. Lestock ordered his squadron to chase to the S.W., and crowded sail ahead of the fleet. At 11 P.M., Mathews signalled for the fleet to draw into line of battle abreast, and then brought to on the starboard tack in order to collect his command. In the afternoon, the British fleet, in admirable order, was going down on the enemy, which was retreating in some confusion before the wind, the Spaniards being ahead of, and to leeward of the French, and the


Real Felipe still bearing Navarro's flag, although she was in tow of another vessel. As for the Poder, she fell so far astern that the enemy fired her to prevent her from again falling into British hands; and, in the course of the following night, she blew up. But, in the meantime, Mathews, at about 5.30 P.M. on the 12th, had ordered his fleet to bring to, there being no more than a light wind from the N.E., and by 10 P.M. that night the enemy was out of sight.






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